Tag Archives: North Carolina

I’m a Freak

* This entry was posted, pulled, and revised. We all make mistakes.

It still hits me over the head sometimes when I have a moment of shock and I think, “I really am a freak.” I’ve got a slew of friends and a paid therapist who consistently tell me how normal I am but hey, they all live in California. I know better; I’m from New York.

I spent my childhood struggling to be seen as normal (read: “like everybody else”) despite feeling trapped in a body and a role I despised. I didn’t look any different from the other girls but still, everyone could see that I was a masculine person in a girl’s body, which was not okay. The boys made fun of me: “To a girl who’s really built — like a Mack truck!” My sixth grade yearbook was littered with these. Even my friends took shots at me, paying the cutest boy in class to sneak up and kiss me on the cheek one day. “Where’s my two bucks?” he demanded, almost before his lips left my face.

Incidents like these aside, I really did and do feel normal most of the time – that is, until someone points out to me that I am not. Formerly, when I identified as a butch lesbian, I had a community and a history to fall back on at such moments. I never felt alone and, once I accepted myself, I never felt odd. There were so many others like me. Now that I identify as a transgender man, I feel utterly alone. There is no comparable community. There is no history. In terms of the medical options available to me, I am a new thing on this earth.

In my last post, I responded to the new North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use the restroom associated with the gender listed on their birth certificates. Some of us look so much like the men or women we identify as that following the law creates its own set of problems. No woman wants to see my mustached face in a ladies room.

The post elicited a strong response from a friend of mine; he’s not wrong in asking me to be realistic about the way politicians think:

“In the eyes of the NC legislators, who are older straight conservatives for the most part, there is a very real fear of perverts emboldened to barge into women’s restrooms AND LOCKER ROOMS [emphasis his] unrestrained. Whether that is a realistic fear or not is neither here nor there. It exists.”

I suppose I have to accept this. No amount of reason can shake an irrational belief. If men who try to look like women are allowed into the ladies room, then men will try to look like women in order to get into the ladies room. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense; belief rarely does. And it’s strong enough to withstand critiques against its discriminatory effects.

The human psyche makes it acceptable to hurt other humans by dehumanizing them. In the eyes of the NC legislature, I am a freak, and freaks pave the way for rapists. As my friend implicitly reminds me, that’s a fact whether I accept it or not. I don’t want to be a freak.

I don’t want to be transgender. It was hard enough coming to grips with being a lesbian; being transgender is a whole other order of weird. How messed up am I, to be so at odds with my own biology? What went wrong in my head or in my life to detach me so completely from my body? No matter what I do, I can never be a “real” man. It’s crazy to think otherwise. I need to deal with reality.

Reality’s a funny thing, though. It keeps changing. It turns out that being transgender is not the same thing as being a man. It doesn’t try to be. It occupies its own legitimate place along the spectrum of human biology and identity. Whether people understand it or not is neither here nor there. It exists.

Something happened in my brain, in the womb or early on, that created disagreement with my body. And while I laid claim to masculine style and identity a long time ago, the disappointment of a mirror has always been profound. Finally denial was more painful than acceptance. Forty-five years of self-hatred is more than enough for anyone.

If that makes me a freak, then so be it.

Which Bathroom Should I Use in North Carolina? Depends.

A friend of mine recently moved her young family to Asheville, North Carolina. After a decade of struggling alone with two kids in a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, she gave up whatever cultural advantages living there might afford them for a 2200 sq. ft. house in the woods. I don’t blame her. She and her children will undoubtedly have a better quality of life there, provided their SF values don’t collide head-on with their new NC reality.

Their move wasn’t just a leap from urban to rural, but from Democratic into Republican territory. My friend, a secular Jew originally from NYC, took comfort in Asheville’s reputation as a progressive oasis in an otherwise conservative state. Besides, the Supreme Court had already made gay marriage the law of the land, so how bad could North Carolina be? It’s the 21st century, after all.

My poor friend; she has my sympathy. I wish I could visit to offer her some emotional support, but I wouldn’t have anywhere to urinate. North Carolina has just passed a law requiring transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth, regardless of how they identify. It’s clear that lawmakers weren’t thinking about how transgender people look, because I’d scare the crap out of everyone if I walked into a women’s restroom. And there are (need I tell you?) scores of incredibly gorgeous transwomen whom I’m sure many people don’t want too close to their husbands in the men’s room.

The practical effect of bathroom laws like this one is to divide the trans community into those of us who can and can’t “pass” as members of the gender with which we identify. If nobody can tell I’m trans, then I’m good to go, literally. No one is going to look twice at me. But if I can’t or don’t particularly want to be invisibly transgender, then I’d better start wearing adult diapers when I’m out and about in North Carolina.

What is all the bathroom panic among so-called “straight” people about? What’s wrong with their dirty little minds? I can’t help but wonder if the terrible childhood experience that made them straight in the first place is the same one that made them so afraid of restroom rape? Maybe we should think about getting rid of diaper changing stations in public bathrooms? Is that it? What on earth is the shared trauma of youth that makes these people neurotic to the point of enacting completely unjustified, blatantly discriminatory legislation?

Paranoid heterosexuals claim to be concerned that if transgender folks have legal access to the correct toilet, then straight men will disguise themselves as transwomen in order to get into the ladies room and rape women. This is championship-level convoluted reasoning: Let’s deny transgender women rights in order to keep straight men from raping straight women. Huh?

As for rape in the women’s restroom, outside of lesbian erotica, I’ve never heard of it happening. Committing a crime so publicly invites interruption and capture. Moreover, if it’s a realistic possibility then I have no idea what stops any rapist from dressing up as a woman and hitting the ladies room right now, regardless of the status of transgender rights. I don’t get the connection. The fact is that transwomen who are forced to use the men’s room as a result of misguided laws like this one will be the people who are most at risk of rape — again, by so-called “straight” men.

In refusing to protect the rights of transgender individuals, the North Carolina legislature appears to have taken a stand against something it’s genuinely afraid it can’t control: Themselves.